By Mike Kunkle
Director of Product Development, Richardson
In this era of Big Data, with the whirlwind of technology at our backs, and with everyone chanting how much buying and selling has changed, there are some things about good ol’ fashioned sales performance management that still ring true.
While we now get our analytics from CRM and other specialized sales enablement systems and big data analytic solutions, and can document and track coaching in similar sales coaching automation systems much more efficiently sales pipeline analytics are still a goldmine of opportunity, and sales coaching, fueled by those analytics and focused on sales methodologies, still yields great results.
So in this post, I’d like to offer a reminder about how to do both of those simple but powerful things well.
Sales Pipeline Analysis
Let’s start with a simplistic view of a pipeline, with 5 reps and 5 stages.
Rep 5 is obviously the top-producer in this small data set. Let’s use this rep for our example (in reality, I’d use a data set of multiple top-producers or A Players).
Starting on the far right with the sales results (10 sales, in this example), divide by the previous stage (Proposals, 18) to determine the average conversation between the stages of Proposals and Sales. It’s 56%.
Continuing to the left, you can determine all the other conversion ratios. Now, for this the data set and timeframe involved, you have average conversion ratios for the pipeline. This is lagging data, not predictive, but even “as is” without improvement, you understand how much top-funnel activity is required to reach a goal, for these top producers. Want 10 sales? Then start with 185 leads. (Yes, I know there are holes in that rationale. This is an example.)
The past doesn’t always equal the future. Some leads will have far different conversions, and this might vary by product set and individual rep, etc. But, it’s an average for that data set of A Players. You can track and adjust it over time, and use sales analytics to better slice the data by segments that make sense to you. We’ll stay simple, for demonstration purposes. And, for the record, math is fun, but sales analytics and sales coaching automation tools can do this sort of analysis for you, so put away your spreadsheet, calculator, or abacus, and look into those tools.
The Analysis is Your Fuel. The Sales Coaching is Your Match.
Now, armed with some averages (for a top producer, a set of top producers, the organizational averages, or perhaps the averages of the band of performers just above the band your rep sits in), you can do some comparing, gap analysis, and sales coaching.
Looking at the first stage, in this case, Leads, ask yourself and your rep:
- What is the number of Leads?
- What are the sources (marketing demand gen or sales prospecting)?
- Are the prospects the right ones (buyer personas / account selection)?
- How does the raw number of leads compare to average?
- What does it mean if the number of leads is far lower than average?
- What does it mean if the number is far higher?
If you’ve done the type of analysis I’ve recommended here… you can start to identify the type and volume of activity applied toward leads, in comparison to the top producer practices, and use the Continue | Start | Stop lists you created to coach your B Player toward higher effectiveness. You still want to have a great dialogue and developmental coaching session to do that, but you’ve laid the foundation with the analysis.
Make a “Fuel” of Yourself with Comparative Analysis
Here’s another angle on pipeline analysis. With the benchmark of A Player averages, compare your B Player’s conversion stats, from left to right.
In this example, you’re comparing the conversion of Leads to Contacts. Your A Players, on average, make contact with the lead 73% of the time. This B Player, only 37%. What are the possible causes of that? Is it raw effort? Does the B Player reach out once? Do they call three days in a row, at the same time each day, and then quit? Do they combine emailing and calling, or just one method? Do they reach out through social media, such as LinkedIn? And how does this all compare to what your A Players are doing?
Notice that the questions are not just about whether they ARE doing it… but HOW and TO WHAT LEVEL.
In later stages, the differences in skill levels can be more pronounced than at this stage. You can focus not only on the action or activity, and how and to what level, but also on deeper levels of behavior and skill. What sales process, sales methodology, frameworks, models and skills are the reps using? How well are they using them… how does their application and skill level compared to the A Players? All great fodder for coaching. Focus first on whether your rep is doing the right things, then on whether they are doing those things right.
In addition, can look across the entire pipeline to see where the greatest gaps are and determine where you might get the most lift or return, and prioritize those areas for improvement. You can also come back to the pipeline and compare velocity, as well.
With this approach of pipeline analytics, comparing B Player practices to the A Players (your top-producer practices analysis), and coaching the Bs to improve based on what the analytics are doing – you can make an excellent impact with your B Players, in a relatively short amount of time.
Closing Thoughts on Great Sales Methodology Coaching
Let’s close with a reminder about how you coach for results. Even though you have made some possibly accurate I say “maybe” because the analysis helps you form some hypotheses about the gaps. Honestly, based on the poor state of coaching today that puts you a leap ahead of the pack, just by doing some pre-coaching diagnosis and reaching a hypothesis to test. But let’s close with a reminder about how you coach for results. Even though you have made some possibly accurate deductions… yes, even if you have the right answers… you won’t have much of an impact on your B Player if you just sit her down, compare her to the top-producer averages, and spit out your pearls of wisdom. Especially when you’re coaching sales methodology, comparing well-documented behavior, it will be tempting to just tell your reps what to do, to get better results. Don’t.
This is where the pre-coaching analysis ends and great developmental coaching takes over. If you want your B Players to “own” the solutions and outcomes, you need to have an open, authentic, helpful and partnership-oriented dialogue with your rep. You need to use questions effectively, to either lead them to the same conclusions as you, or uncover additional information that: 1) shapes the conversation, 2) more clearly identifies the gaps, and 3) jointly fosters solutions even better solutions, to close the gaps. If you transparently share your top-producer data, and lead a great dialogue about what your B Players are doing in comparison, many times your reps will reach the right conclusions and find their own best answers. Strive for that.
Great coaching is more about leading others to brilliance, than sharing your brilliance. There are plenty of great posts and reading about coaching, though, so rather than completely reinvent the wheel, I’ll refer you to some here, and also offer other related reading below, for pipeline management.
More on Sales Coaching:
- 17 guiding rules for giving developmental feedback
- Want sales performance? Coach sales behaviors
- Don’t be a jerk – Coaching and mentoring sales reps leads to more effective knowledge transfer
- Questions: the fabric of an effective coaching conversation
- Coaching for sales teams: Less Superman, more Clark Kent
More on Pipeline Management:
About Mike Kunkle
Mike is a training and organization effectiveness leader with special expertise in sales force transformation. He is currently responsible for product development at Richardson, a global sales training and strategy execution company that partners with leading organizations to increase their sales effectiveness and drive business results. Visit blogs.richardson.com or connect with Mike through LinkedIn or Twitter.